With the end of November comes the end of Diabetes Awareness Month, but that’s no reason to stop being aware. The International Diabetes Foundation estimates more than 400 million people in the world are living with diabetes right now.
When poorly-managed, diabetes can cause serious physical issues and can lead to big problems with oral health. Practicing good oral hygiene and having professional deep cleanings done by your dentist can help to lower your HbA1c. This is a lab test that shows your average level of blood sugar over the previous three months. It indicates how well you are controlling your diabetes. Our team at Three Rivers Dental Group is specially trained to help our patients maintain their dental health by providing the tools and knowledge necessary to manage and prevent oral complications associated with diabetes.
Research suggests that treating gum disease can help improve blood sugar control in patients living with diabetes, decreasing the progression of the disease. Diabetes causes changes to blood vessels, affecting the flow of nutrients and how waste is removed from body tissue. Individuals with mismanaged diabetes are at risk for gum disease, or periodontitis, an infection that weakens gum tissue and bones. Gum disease is a major cause of tooth loss. One in every five cases of total tooth loss is linked to diabetes. When periodontitis is left untreated, managing diabetes becomes difficult.
People with diabetes are susceptible to dry mouth, or xerostomia, due to high glucose levels in their blood and saliva. In addition to the lack of moisture in the mouth, symptoms include mouth corner irritations and inflamed gums, or gingivitis. Reduce the risk of dry mouth by keeping blood sugars within the recommended range, staying hydrated, using non-alcoholic teeth cleaning gel or mouthwash and lip balm to soothe dry or irritated lips. If you wear dentures or braces, be sure to continue brushing after every meal.
With increased levels of glucose in the blood and saliva, diabetics are at high risk for yeast infections. This includes thrush (oral candidiasis), a yeast infection of the mouth. Thrush produces white patches on the inside of cheeks, redness or pain in the mouth, cracking and redness in mouth corners and a loss of taste. Those who have experienced thrush report feeling a “cotton sensation” in the mouth. If diabetics leave thrush untreated, it can quickly spread to the bloodstream and become life-threatening. Keeping blood sugars within the recommended range is the best way to avoid thrush and other yeast or fungal infections.
Diabetics may notice a cold sore or cut in the mouth requires longer healing time than normal. This causes individuals with diabetes to experience lingering oral pain and extended symptoms associated with gum disease, dry mouth, thrush, and more. Slow healing is especially prevalent when blood sugar levels are not properly controlled, incorrect insulin dosages are being administered, or if a patient is experiencing physical or emotional stress.
A big smile and good dental health go along way to helping manage diabetes. The number of diabetics worldwide is expected to grow to more than 600 million in the next 20 years, and more than 46% of people currently living with diabetes are undiagnosed. Three Rivers Dental Groups four offices are conveniently located in Cranberry, Greentree, Greensburg, and Jennerstown- with specialists in all of our offices that are prepared to help patients with diabetes. Contact us today and let’s talk about how to best manage your dental health if you’re living with diabetes or have early warning signs.